Friday, November 24, 2023

Migration to Suffolk - a celebration

Part of moving to a new location is about building connections in the community, and one of the great assets that Ipswich has is The Hold, the relatively new home of Suffolk Archives.

Last month, Ros took me to see the exhibition there marking the 500th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Wolsey and today saw the launch event of a new exhibition, celebrating migration to Suffolk. Now, I will freely admit that, before I moved to the county, I wouldn't have thought of Ipswich as being a town with a significant migrant population, but there's no doubt that the town has become more diverse in recent years. That's partly to do with the sort of trends we've seen elsewhere, with migrants coming to do the jobs that locals either can't or won't do, but the influence of the student intake at the University of Suffolk also brings people into the town from a wide variety of backgrounds.

But there was a good crowd at The Hold this evening, representing a remarkable number of groups, from across the spectrum, despite the clash with the turning on of the town's Christmas lights at the Cornhill.

The exhibition has been curated by the Suffolk Archives in collaboration with a number of groups representing migrant communities across Ipswich and Suffolk, and for those who might not be aware of the richness that they bring to our lives, and the work done to maintain their cultural roots, it's an opportunity to dip into their experiences.

It's not a big exhibition - there isn't the space for that - but it does cover a lot of ground, with a brief timeline of migration waves and policy making, a number of national costumes, and some history of minority communities in Ipswich and around the county. And it's free, which just makes it more accessible to the wider populace.

Sadly, there have been some objections both to the theme of the exhibition, but also to the fact that it has happened at all. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess, especially given the rabble-rousing that comes from our MP, the ever charming Tom Hunt. His rhetoric on migration encourages the racists among us to dial up hatred and fear in our communities, whereas an exhibition like "Arrivals" allows us to see our common humanity.

We also met the town's Deputy Mayor, Cllr Elango Elavalakan, who was there to give an opening speech. I was interested to discover that he's a civil engineer by training, and worked for Oxfam, delivering fresh water infrastructure across the globe. He's also Sri Lankan, and another incomer to the area from London, like I am. 

All in all, an interesting evening, and we'll go back and visit the exhibition properly at a later date so that we can listen to some of the stories - there are little boxes which, when held, play interviews with representatives of different communities. Luckily, we've got to mid-April to do so, and I'm sure that we'll find the time, especially as it's a short walk from our home.

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